Even if you weren’t around when the original Super Mario Bros. came out, you can kind of guess that Mario’s done it all. You’ve got his usual adventures busting up Bowser’s castles, the go-kart races, party games, nearly every conceivable sport from tennis, baseball, soccer, golf, basketball, to even the whole Olympics. Some of the odd pastimes Mario’s picked up have been huge hits (i.e. go-karting) while others have been huge flops (i.e. basketball) but all in all Mario’s iconic not only as the princess-saving plumber but also the jack-of-all-trades guy willing to tackle virtually any gaming genre. What haven’t we seen Mario in yet? If you’re a fan of Call of Duty, Halo, or any of the mega-blockbuster shooter franchises that tend to dominate amongst today’s modern hardcore gamers, you might say Mario just doesn’t have it in him to do a shooter. You think so? Guess again, because our favorite plumber teamed up with his favorite dinosaur companion on the SNES to shoot giant robots in the face. This week, we picked up the first and only shooter in the Mario series, Yoshi’s Safari.
After we plugged in the cartridge into our Retron 2 and plugged in the Super Scope (yes! It’s compatible!), we didn’t know quite what to expect. Shooters back in the day were pure novelty, a genre that simply didn’t have the consoles with enough power to blossom into the behemoth it is today. Games like Duck Hunt were fun ways to introduce people into gaming, but slowly, interested players would be eased out of using the novelty of the Super Scope in favor of the traditional controls to play the role-playing games that dominated the area and became classics (see Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy). We had to keep out expectations realistic with this game: it’s a rail shooter not yet on part with control schemes of arcade rail shooters like House of the Dead or Time Crisis. But still, there’s an exceptionally cute and fun aspect to the game that made us wonder why Mario hasn’t picked up a gun in over a decade.
The game takes the standard Super Mario structure having you travel through eight different stages across the world to save the royal family of the Mushroom Kingdom. The game is played from the first-person perspective, so you never actually see Mario during a stage. You do see the back of Yoshi’s head, which serves as the figure who’s got to avoid hits to avoid losing too much life. Yoshi turns back to face you whenever he gets hit, cross-eyed and tongue sticking out when he gets hit by an enemy and annoyed when you friendly-fire at him (the expressions are priceless). For the most part, you move automatically through the stage, but at certain points you have to jump over obstacles like long stretches of water.
Using the Super Scope, you’ve got to plow through several flying enemies like Flying Goombas and Parakoopas as the stage progresses. Admittedly, the stages are really easy because you can machine-gun the incoming enemies in their predictable flight patterns. It does get tricky when you start facing off mini-bosses like the Hammer Bros. and the mecha-bosses controlled by the Bowser’s Koopalings and you have to shift your attention to shooting away their projectiles, but it’s not a problem for anyone used to arcade shooters. It’s an easy game and it might be disappointing to some looking for a good quality shooter, but it’s certainly got a good fun factor, especially for avid Yoshi fans. Both the game and the Super Scope may be hard to find, but if you do, it’s a great addition to a Mario collection.
Our conclusion with the game is that while it’s not an amazing game, it’s got loads of potential Nintendo should look in to. While spins-off may seem shallow and avid fans might insist the developers focus on improving the main series, a new Mario shooter might invigorate the Mario spin-off series, which has been paling with the stagnant release of Mario Party and the lukewarm releases of the latest Mario sports. The multiplayer aspect in Super Mario Galaxy that had you waving the Wiimot around to collect as many gems as you could certainly alluded to the potential of making a new Mario shooter on these new consoles. Whether Mario’s going to pick up the gun again, take up a samurai sword or try his hand at cooking, we’ll be looking forward to what else the favorite plumber can do. It might not be great, but it’ll at least it’ll add another notch to his belt.